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International Schools Persevere in the Face of Pressures

By Meadow Hilley, TIE Editor

Since last spring, heightened tensions have led to renewed street protests in Venezuela as the political opposition resists what it perceives as an attempt by President Nicolas Maduro to impose one-man rule. President Maduro, for his part, claims that the opposition is trying to illegally overthrow his government. Dozens have died in protest-related violence.
Superintendent Steve Mancuso reports that Colegio Internacional Puerto La Cruz in Anzoátegui, Venezuela was significantly impacted both at the end of last year and the start of this year by the growing crisis.
“Due to ongoing street blockages and protests we had to go to online learning for the last two weeks of school and close one week early,” writes Mancuso.
As the protests persisted all summer, he and his staff decided to delay the start of school by two weeks. Consequently, all returning teachers had to change their flight dates and the orientation for new teachers was cut short.
Enrollment numbers are down this year at Colegio Internacional Puerto La Cruz, following a country-wide trend. According to Mancuso, this is largely due to the fact that many corporate families have been unable to return.
“I am happy to report that it has been quiet here since school started, and we have amended our calendar to make up for our late start,” writes Mancuso. “Nobody knows what the future holds, but Venezuelans are resilient people, so we are optimistic for better days.”
The most significant issues facing Escuela Las Morochas (located in Ciudad Ojeda, Zulia, Venezuela), according to Director Iraima Ojeda, are the drop in student enrollment and an increasing reluctance among international educators to take positions in the country.
“Most of the students coming from the oil services companies have left,” Ojeda reports, striking a blow to the school’s major source of income. “Now we just have local students, and our registration has come down.”
Decreased enrollments
Writing from Escuela Campo Alegre in Caracas, Venezuela, Superintendent Terry Christian echoed his colleagues at other international schools in the country, stating that the main impact resulting from the tenuous political and social situation was to cause enrollment numbers to fall.
Over the course of last spring—in particular between the months of April and July—the U.S., British, and Canadian embassies decided to withdraw their families. Following that tumultuous period, however, Christian is happy to report that Caracas has been very quiet. The school year got off to a smooth start at Escuela Campo Alegre, which is running its full program.
“Faculty, students and the parent community are enjoying normality at school once again,” writes Christian, who like Mancuso expressed his admiration for “the strength of character, resilience, flexibility, and adaptably” of his Venezuelan colleagues and the Venezuelan people at large.
“We have a wonderful school community here. Venezuela is a great place, and it is a pleasure to live and to work here.”
Licensing in South Korea
Last April, the South Korean government raided a private, English-medium academy in eastern Seoul and ordered 14 Canadian teachers to leave the country, citing improper work visas.
TIE contacted a number of Korean schools within its network to find out if the government’s effort to curb the proliferation of “unauthorized” English-medium international schools was likely to impact their operations in any way.
Those who responded assured TIE that the incident was specific to institutions categorized as “private academies” and would have no effect on properly licensed international schools.
Mark Stock, Whole School Principal at Kwangju Foreign School in Gwangju, South Korea, offered a detailed explanation of the country’s educational landscape with respect to private international institutions.
“Korea has different requirements for academies (least restrictive but also usually limited to one subject), international schools (more restrictive in licensing, can usually teach all subjects, larger pool of students), and foreign schools (most restrictive on all levels in regards to visa requirements, qualification of teachers, and who you can enroll in the school),” Stock explained. “It is my understanding that the schools that were closed were licensed as academies with the government of Korea but functioning as international schools. It is also my understanding that they were warned of their deficiencies in license vs. operation well over a year in advance of being closed.”
Because the schools in question did not relay these warnings to their staff, many teachers were caught off-guard.
“While we are all concerned about what happened to the teachers at these institutions, it has had zero effect on anything we do,” Stock clarified.
TIE received a similar report from Daegu International School’s new headmaster, Chris Murphy, who stated that his school (located in Daegu, South Korea) has not been affected by these events. “We have not lost any teachers due to visa issues and had great success recruiting strong teachers again this year.
“Branksome Hall Asia (Seogwipo, South Korea) is licensed as an International School, not as a private Academy,” explained Principal Beverley von Zielonka. As such, “all Branksome Hall Asia teachers have the E7 visa.”

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